Re: The Hamas-Endorsing Professor and Academic Freedom

by Nathan Harden

David: Good point. I think you’re right that we do have to make a distinction between words and deeds. I don’t believe in criminalizing thoughts. And I agree with you that it is important that we protect academic freedom, even if that means protecting someone’s right to express beliefs most of us view a reprehensible.

To build on one of your other points: I’m not so sure that a university, especially a private one, should be duty bound to keep any person in its employ whose activities and statements made outside the classroom could affect his ability to do what he was hired to do. In this case, Bassam Frangieh is being paid to implement a study-abroad program in the Middle East for Claremont students, with the hope of preparing some of them diplomatic service in the region. I question whether Dr. Frangieh is able to do that job, since his statements appear to endorse terrorism, rather than diplomacy, as a means of political change in the region.

William F. Buckley argued in God and Man at Yale that if alumni find the ideologies and morals advanced by their alma mater severely lacking, they should feel free to withdraw financial support. I see no reason why Claremont McKenna alumni should help pay Dr. Frangieh’s salary if they are offended by his beliefs and do not believe he is qualified to do the job he is being paid to do. I could live with it if Dr. Frangieh were limited simply to teaching the Arabic language. But I think Claremont McKenna would be wise to send him packing, at least from the study-abroad/international-affairs aspect of his job (something his degree in Arabic literature probably doesn’t really qualify him to do in the first place).

Either way, he’ll need an office change. Thus, while your point about academic freedom is important and right on point, I stick by my call for donating boxes rather than money to the school.

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